What Is Acupuncture?
The term "Acupuncture" actually encompasses a group of different techniques that are used to stimulate specific points on your body. These points, often called acupoints, are connected to a network of meridians that act as energy pathways connecting our major organ systems.
Depending on which organs or organ systems are imbalanced, a patient may feel any number of ailments, of which the most common is chronic or acute pain.
Acupuncture is not a replacement for medical care. It is a complementary, holistic, modality intended to support the body by providing pain relief, relaxation, and immune support. You should always refer to your medical doctor regarding health concerns or any decisions affecting your health.
Although there are many variations of acupuncture treatments, the most common practice involves the use of small sterile needles. These needles are inserted by an acupuncturist into specific points on the body and are no bigger than a hair. They are single use,disposable, needles for safety reasons. The procedure is painless and without any known side effects when done properly.
What should I expect during an Acupuncture treatment?
Acupuncture treatments generally begin with an intake that includes a verbal interview, and diagnosis based commonly on pulse and tongue evaluation.
Once the interview and diagnosis are complete, the acupuncturist will have you lie down in a comfortable and relaxing position while he/she begins needle placement.
In most cases, people report feeling a gentle tingling sensation at the needle insertion point, muscle relaxation, and a general feeling of well-being.
In addition to needle insertion, acupuncturists may also use pressure from their hands, herbal liniments, and deep tissue massage to increase the flow of Qi.
After inserting the needles, an acupuncturist will leave you to relax for 20 to 30 minutes, afterwhich the acupuncturist removes the needles.
How many treatments will I need?
The number of treatments can vary. If you're new to acupuncture or have a long standing chronic condition, expect to see the acupuncturist for several visits in the course of one or two months before treatments become more spaced out and less frequent.
Will I have to take herbs/formulas?
It is important to understand the important role that herbal formulas play in an acupuncture treatment.
Though acupuncture is a powerful tool in managing chronic conditions, its effects last much longer and are amplified in effectiveness with the proper use of herbal formulas.
The more severe your condition, the more likely herbal formulas will be recommended.
How Does Acupuncture Work?
One of the most common questions when people are introduced to acupuncture is “How does it work?” Although acupuncture has been around for the last 3,000 years, only recently has there been scientific research verifying its claims of renewed health and vitality.
The Gate Control theory
Put forth by Wall and Melzak in 1959, Gate Control states that the transmission of nerve impulses from afferent fibers to spinal cord transmission cells is modulated by a spinal-gating mechanism in the part of the spine referred to as the dorsal horn. The spinal-gating mechanism is influenced by the relative amount of activity in large-diameter and small-diameter fibers. Activity in large fibers tends to inhibit transmission (close the gate) while small-fiber activity tends to facilitate transmission (open the gate). 2 It is considered that by increasing activity in the large fibers through needling, acupuncture activates receptors that inhibit the transmission of nociceptive signals in the dorsal horn thus “shutting the gate” for pain stimuli – and offering a means of pain control.
Blood Chemistry theory
Acupuncture can affect blood chemistry through blood concentrations of triglycerides, cholesterol, and phospholipids. Numerous examples reveal that the regulatory action of acupuncture is bi-directional. 3 Acupuncture lowers the blood pressure in patients with hypertension and elevates it in patients with hypotension; increases gastric secretion in patients with hypoacidity, and lowers it with those suffering from hyperacidity. Although the results are amply documented, the exact mechanism for this is still unclear.
Certain neurotransmitter levels (such as Seratonin and Noradrenaline) are affected by acupuncture. By stimulating neural pathways, acupuncture affects higher brain areas, stimulating the secretion of beta-endorphins and enkephalins in the brain and spinal cord. The release of these neurotransmitters influences both the immune system and the antinociceptive system involved in gate theory.
Autonomic Nervous System theory
Acupuncture stimulates the release of norepinephrine, acetylcholine and several types of opioids, affecting changes in their turnover rate, normalizing the autonomic nervous system, and reducing pain.
Acupuncture manipulates the electrical system of the body by creating or enhancing closed-circuit transport in tissues. This facilitates healing by allowing the transfer of material and electrical energy between normal and injured tissues. This theory fits well with the findings of electro-galvanic skin resistance differentials at acupuncture points.
All these theories go far in explaining–in western medical terms–the various biological processes by which acupuncture affects bodily functions within biophysical systems.
As more research is conducted we are confident that precise mechanisms that instigate these biological processes by the insertion of needles will be better understood and universally accepted.
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